The Primary Times; In case you missed it…
The Primary Times; In case you missed it…
I running a series of ads in the Primary Times. I have been reading the Primary Times for over 10 years, starting when my oldest attended Colyton Primary. I find it really useful when thinking of what to do during school holidays. It was a simple choice to decide to advertise there. Until I set up, there was no mediation service based in East Devon with a legal aid contract. This meant that parents in Seaton, Honiton, Axminster and other East Devon villages and towns might have to go into Exeter to see a mediator. Fancy having to do that when you have young children and need to get back for the school run! The extra time, petrol, parking and stress! Not helpful at all. And so it is important that I make parents aware of my presence and the service that I can provide. The Primary Times is a good vehicle for this. And so, if you know any parents who I can assist, please pass my details on. In the meantime, here is my article, that was published in the Easter edition, which is about Collaborative Law and Mediation.
Helping families to find fair solutions
I have specialised in Family Law for over 20 years. During that time I have seen far too many unnecessarily “difficult” cases. In January 2013 I founded my own specialist practice to enable me to better concentrate on assisting families to find fair solutions to family problems in a constructive way.
When I meet clients for the first time, they tell me they want to resolve their divorce or child contact problems or other family difficulties in a fair way, that truly meets the needs of their children and as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
Yet we all know loads of people who have had a terrible experience of divorce and family law which has come at a massive cost either financially or emotionally or both.
The default way of resolving family disputes has always been to go to Court. Generally this drives a greater wedge between parents and their children very often find themselves stuck in the middle. It is also slow, stressful and expensive. Sometimes, going to Court is absolutely necessary, in order to protect a parent or child from abuse, but in most cases court gets in the way of long term solutions.
I have long believed that Court based solutions should only be sought as a very last resort. Really only when there is a serious safety issue.
Whilst there is a great deal wrong with the Legal Aid changes which come into effect from 1 April 2013 (and I mean a very great deal), I welcome the greater emphasis on supporting families to find their own solutions to disputes through mediation.
I qualified as a Solicitor in 1992. In 1996 I trained as a mediator after concluding that Mediation was generally better than going to Court. I became one of the first 20 mediators to achieve the accreditation standard with Resolution. I have since been elected by fellow mediators to the governing Board of the Family Mediators Association. Mediation is often the best and most cost effective process to resolve family disputes.
Family Mediation is a process in which a couple or other family members, whether or not they are legally represented, at any time, whether or not there have been court proceedings, together appoint a neutral third party (the mediator) to assist them.
The mediator is impartial and has no authority to make decisions with regard to their issues, which may relate to separation, divorce, children’s issues, property and financial questions and any other issues they may raise.
The mediator helps the couple reach their own informed decisions, by confidential negotiation, and without adjudication.
Mediation is a flexible process and there will still be Legal Aid for it and for the couple to get legal advice between meetings. As a practising Solicitor, I am in a good position to identify questions where legal advice is needed. I am also able to give informed and neutral information. Part of being a Solicitor is maintaining a high level of professional integrity. I am also qualified to meet with older children so that their views may be included.
But mediation is not the only out of court solution.
In 2005 I also helped to arrange one of the first courses to train Solicitors in Collaborative family law, which took place in Exeter.
With Collaborative Law, each person appoints their own collaboratively trained Solicitor.
The separating couple and their Solicitors sign an agreement that commits them all to trying to resolve the issues without going to court. This agreement prevents the Solicitors from representing their clients in court if the collaborative process breaks down.
This means that everybody is absolutely committed to finding the best solutions by agreement, rather than through court proceedings.
The negotiations proceed through a series of meetings. If any extra information is needed, then it is agreed how this is best obtained. Other professionals can be brought in if needed, such as financial planners, mediators and child consultants.
With Collaborative Law everyone works together as a team to find a solution acceptable to both clients.
Some people are put off by the idea that if a solution cannot be found, they have to find a new solicitor. This fear is understandable, but the whole point is that for it to work, everyone has to be committed to finding a solution together.
Collaborative Law or Mediation will work in most cases provided parents are committed to their good intentions. It is important to choose the process best suited to a family and find the right Mediator or Collaborative Solicitor. Hopefully Mediation and Collaborative Law will now become the normal path for families. It is important for children that it does.
Solicitor/Mediator/Collaborative Family Lawyer